1 John 1:5

Sermon preached on July 16, 2006 by Laurence W. Veinott. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

In his book
Hyperspace, Michio Kaku, (p. 65) tells about an incident that that once happened to the famous painter Pablo Picasso. He writes,

"Picasso was once accosted on a train by a stranger who recognized him. The stranger complained: Why couldn't he draw pictures of people the way they actually were? Why did he have to distort the way people looked? Picasso then asked the man to show him pictures of his family. After glancing at the snapshot, Picasso replied, 'Oh, is your wife really that small and flat?'"

Picasso thought that even ordinary pictures were distortions. But I think that everyone would agree that Picasso took distortion to a new level. I don't think anyone would use his paintings to try to convey what human beings look like. Do you recall the drawing of the man and woman that they put on the Pioneer 10 spacecraft that was launched in the early 70's? Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to leave our solar system and they put a plaque on it in case any extra terrestrials ever found it. Various things were on the plaque, one of them a sketch of a man and a woman, drawn to scale. When they were deciding what kind of drawing of a man and a woman on the plaque, I don't think anyone suggested that they use one of Picasso's sketches. If they did use one of his sketches, it wouldn't have conveyed very accurate information about what human beings look like.

In order to know what someone is like, we need accurate information about him. This applies to God as well. What is God like? It's important that we have a clear and accurate understanding of God for
what we think about God affects so much of how we live. It affects our worship, how we handle adversity and whether we give Him honor and glory in all things.

So what is God like?
Our text gives us a summary of Jesus' teaching about God. The apostle John wrote,

"This is the message we have heard from him
and declare to you:

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."

What a concise and wonderful description of God. Just a few words, but it tells us so much.

Jesus told us that God is light. The truth that we have here is basic and essential for the Christian. We must take this truth and incorporate it into our being. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

In teaching us this Jesus was echoing some Old Testament teaching about God.
Psalm 104:2 tells us that God clothes Himself in light. We read, (Psalm 104:1-2)

"Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers
on their waters."

Daniel 2:22 says of God,

"He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him."

In 1 Timothy 6:15-16 the apostle Paul wrote,

"God, the blessed and only Ruler,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone is immortal
and who lives in unapproachable light,
whom no one has seen or can see.
To him be honor and might forever. Amen."

God is light. God clothes Himself in light. He dwells in light. He dwells in light unapproachable.

What is the point of Jesus telling us this?
I. H. Marshall tells us that the fundamental idea exhibited here, (p. 109)

"is that of holiness; light symbolizes the flawless perfection of God."

It indicates the ethical purity of God. We see this use in John 3:19-21 where we read,

"This is the verdict:
Light has come into the world,
but men loved darkness instead of light
because their deeds were evil.
Everyone who does evil hates the light,
and will not come into the light
for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light,
so that it may be seen plainly
that what he has done has been done through God."

We also see this ethical character used of light in Ephesians 5:8-14 where the readers were once in darkness, but now are 'light' and are to live as 'children of light' and bring forth the fruit of light rather than engage in the 'unfruitful works of darkness'.

Light represents moral purity, righteousness and holiness. Alfred
Plummer says that light, (The Epistles of St. John, p. 23)

"It suggests the ubiquity, brightness, happiness, intelligence, truth, purity, holiness. It suggests excellence without limit and without taint; an excellence whose nature is to communicate itself and to pervade everything from which it is not of set purpose shut out."

John Calvin said about this verse,

"When, therefore, God… is called the Father of light, and also light, we first understand that there is nothing in him but what is bright, pure, and unalloyed;"

When it says that God is light it is telling us about the character of God—what He is like. The idea conveyed here by the idea of light is that

God is absolutely pure.

God is thoroughly light. The negation we have here is important.

"in Him there is not darkness at all,"

Light and darkness are mutually exclusive. One shuts out the other.

In us there can be a mixture of good and evil. We have the Spirit the new nature, yet if we do not take precautions—the old sinful nature can raise its ugly head. We can do good or evil. We can be good and bad.

Not so with God. Light is identical with God's being. Herman
Bavinck writes, (Doctrine of God, p. 121)

"when we speak about God, we must maintain that each of his attributes is identical with his being. God is all light…"

In Him is no darkness at all. In the context John is telling them that our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son. If we are to have fellowship with Them, we need to be pure. F.F. Bruce writes, (The Epistles of John, p. 41)

"It is in the ethical sense that John here affirms that 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all'. God, that is to say, is the source and essence of holiness and righteousness, goodness and truth; in Him there is nothing that is unholy or unrighteous, evil or false."

I. H. Marshall writes, (p. 109)

"The point is not so much that God did not create darkness but rather that living in the darkness is incompatible with fellowship with God. This makes it clear that the writer is thinking of light and darkness predominately in ethical terms; it is his way of saying: 'God is good, and evil can have no place beside him.'"

In God there is not some light and some darkness. God is not 99% light and 1% darkness. No. No. No. God is thoroughly and completely light. He is thoroughly and completely pure. He is thoroughly and completely holy. He is thoroughly and completely righteous. He is thoroughly and completely good. There is no mixture of good and evil. He is light. John Calvin writes,

"In him is no darkness at all. This mode of speaking is commonly used by John, to amplify what he has affirmed by a contrary negation. Then, the meaning is, that God is such a light, that no darkness belongs to him. It hence follows, that he hates an evil conscience, pollution, and wickedness, and everything that pertains to darkness."

Now what does all this mean for us?

First of all I suggest that
you incorporate this into your thought processes.

Whenever you think of God, think of Him as being thoroughly good and of doing what is thoroughly good.

You should never entertain unworthy thoughts of God. God is good. He is light. In Him is no darkness at all.

There are many things in this world that may cause you to question God's goodness. Consider what's happening in and around Israel the last few days. Why does God allow all the fighting? Why does He allow all the suffering in the world, all the injustices, all the murderers, all the sickness?

Why? Why? Why?

When righteous Job suffered he wished he could ask God why. But God was silent. Job's wife thought it foolish that Job hung on to his integrity and urged him to curse God and die. But Job knew she talked like a foolish woman.

At the end of the book of Job, Job said to God, (Job 42:1f)

"I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
[You asked,]
'Who is this that obscures my counsel
without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
[You said,] 'Listen now,
and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

God never answered any of Job's questions—but Job knew absolutely that God was the One who had light, and that he, Job, obscured God's counsel without knowledge, that he spoke of things he did not understand, things too wonderful for him to know.

Abraham learned that God was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he asked God, (Genesis 18: 23f)

"Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?
Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place
for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?
Far be it from you to do such a thing—
to kill the righteous with the wicked,
treating the righteous and the wicked alike.
Far be it from you!
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

Abraham held it as a firm principle that God was just and that He would act justly.

Indeed, if you look at the
book of Psalms one of the things you will see is that they try to instill in us that God is most worthy of praise. Psalms 96 and 97, which we read as our responsive reading this morning are typical. There are hundreds of verses in the psalms that urge us to praise and give thanks to God, that tell us that He is glorious and worthy of praise. These biblical writers were not repeating themselves for nothing. The Holy Spirit wants you as a Christian to be assured of this great fact—God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. This was the message of Jesus. This is what we should believe. When troubles come, we should believe this. When sickness comes, we should hold this close to our hearts.

Now you may be thinking—

"Well, isn't that kind of like hiding your head in the sand? Isn't that merely saying that you don't have an answer to the suffering in the world and that, 'God is light' is like a Christian mantra while closing our eyes to the suffering and injustice in the world?"

No, not at all. Remember whose teaching this is.

It is the teaching of Jesus.

Yes, there is suffering in the world. Yes, there is injustice in the world. Yes, there are wars and atrocities. Yes, terrible, terrible things happen in the world. Evil often seems to be winning. The righteous suffer. The martyrs in glory even cry, (Revelation 6:10)

"How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true,
until you judge the inhabitants of the earth
and avenge our blood?"

But God has done and is doing something about it. Jesus said, (John 3:16)

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish
but have eternal life."

Jesus came to save sinners. He brought light into our darkness. He entered into our suffering and paid the price for our sins. He is the Prince of Peace whose gospel of peace and reconciliation is being proclaimed throughout the world. Daily He is saving men, women and children. On one great day in the future He is going to usher in a new heavens and a new earth wherein will dwell righteousness.

Let this be your rule— God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Know that God is working, righteously, to bring His kingdom to pass.

Our job is not to hide our head in the sand and merely believe that God is light. No, believe that God is light and go out into the world and proclaim Him. He are to tell others about His love, His justice, His goodness. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all! Believe it with all your heart because it's true. There is no one like our God.

Secondly, for Christians,

this means that you need to be holy.

God is light. This means that we need to live as children of light. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness and wickedness
have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

If God is light then that means that you need to be holy. You need to be rigorous with yourself. Trusting in Jesus you need to live lives of light—keeping yourselves from sin, shining for Jesus. John Calvin writes of God,

"he makes all things so manifest by his brightness, that he suffers nothing vicious or perverted, no spots or filth, no hypocrisy or fraud, to lie hid. Then the sum of what is said is, that since there is no union between light and darkness, there is a separation between us and God as long as we walk in darkness; and that the fellowship which he mentions, cannot exist except we also become pure and holy."

Thirdly, for Christians,

how you should desire to see God, to have fellowship with Him.

He is all our good. In Psalm 27:4 David said,

"One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple."

There is no one like our God. He is the source and foundation of light, of goodness. Psalm 36:9 says of God,

"For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light."

How wonderful it will be when you dwell with God in glory. In Revelation 21:23 we read,

"The city does not need the sun or the moon
to shine on it,
for the glory of God gives it light,
and the Lamb is its lamp."

Revelation 22:5 says,

"There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever."

Seek God. Seek to know His light. It's a transforming experience. Remember Moses on Mount Sinai? When he came down his face was shining. If you draw near to God you will experience what we read about in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Paul wrote,

"And we, who with unveiled faces
all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed into his likeness
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

Christians, draw close to God and become transformed by Him.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians. I urge you,

don't be deceived by the darkness.

What does darkness mean to you? I have a little bit of light sensitivity and I know that I enjoy some darkness. But when I say that I'm not speaking of darkness in ethical terms. You too may not consider the darkness to be too bad. I can look at physical darkness and sometimes feel good about it.

But don't be deceived. The darkness that is the opposite of the light spoken of here refers to the worst kind of darkness—the darkness of evil, of blackness, of horror, of emptiness and of being unsatisfied. Did you ever have a little glimpse of darkness that made you horrified. That's the view of darkness that you should have.

Don't be fooled by today's societies
marketing version of hell. People today will tell you that they're not afraid of hell, that indeed that's where they want to go, for all their friends are there. They view it as a place that not that bad.

I remember a few years ago shortly after I bought Microsoft Word another company started advertising heavily and on every ad they had a reference to Microsoft Word and said, "
Don't buy it." They went on to tell people that their word processor, which was going to come out shortly, was so much better than Microsoft Word that people would be foolish to buy Microsoft Word. Rather they should wait until their word processor came out and buy it instead. They told about how great their word processor was going to be and how it would run circles around Microsoft Word. But their word processor got delayed. It didn't ship. It was delayed for months and months. Yet they kept saying, "Don't buy Microsoft Word." Finally their product shipped. It was horrible. It wasn't better than Microsoft Word—it was much, much worse. It was so incredibly slow and buggy and crashy that the reviewers all panned it and virtually no one bought it. The company soon went bankrupt. All their hype was just marketing. It was all lies.

I remember hearing a story about hell like that. The story was about a man deciding to choose between heaven and hell. He had a tour of each of them. He was surprised when the devil was showing him around hell, for it was full of golf resorts, beaches and fun things to do. So he picked hell. Later, when he arrived permanently, there were no golf courses, beaches or fun things. All he saw was fire and brimstone. He asked the devil about the golf resorts and beaches, and the devil replied,

"Oh, that was just the marketing version. This is the reality."

Hell is darkness. Jesus spoke about it being a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, where (Mark 9:48)

"their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched."

That darkness is a place of utmost horror. Don't be fooled by the world's marketing version. Hell is a terrible place of darkness. It's a place of suffering devoid of light, of God's presence, of blessing. More than anything else you need to avoid going there. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you. In Matthew 11:28f Jesus said,

"Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."